22nd May | Rough Trade
Photos: Albert Testani
In the preview, I wrote about how one of the more mysterious qualities of a good song is the strange feeling that you’ve already heard it, whether or not you have. During Alaskalaska‘s set, I knew that I had listened to their album a number of times in prep for writing these pieces, but I was still struck by this overwhelming feeling of familiarity with their music. The more and more I thought about it, I realized that Alaskalaska’s music taps into a timeless style of music, in the most figurative and literal sense.
Similar to the stylings of Dev Hynes on his Blood Orange albums, Alaskalaska draft themselves in a multitude of ways, ranging from alt-pop, downtempo shoegaze and chillwave, sprinkled with jazz and electronics. The physical aesthetics of the band exist in the visual universe of Spike Jonze’s Her, set somewhere in the not-so-distant future, as seen through the eyes of the 1960s. A monochromatic stage presence, bathed in desaturated lights, feels like the underground of a random city, where the outside sirens blend with Alaskalaska’s blaring saxophone and synths.
The early part of the gig highlighted Alaskalaska’s more low-key, contemplative songs. I was listening to the set, standing with my arms crossed. Not because I didn’t enjoy it or that the tracks weren’t moving me to sway or dance with the crowd, but my mind was wandering and thinking about a million different things. Some about the music, like what inspired them to write these songs, how much of the look and aesthetics are planned, and some about a lot of deep emotions and that’s when I realized they were doing it again! That timeless feeling where the music finds its way into your thoughts.
On the track, ‘Happyface’, vocalist Lucinda Duarte-Holman described it as a song about body language. Maybe it’s just me, but when hearing that I assumed that a dance track would blast on and everyone in the crowd would be encouraged to awaken and participate in the concert, but instead we were given a song with subtlety and intricate cues because that’s what body language actually is! Music and language building upon one another making you think about intentions! Sorry, it’s just that with pop music feeling more and more literal each year, something a little thought-provoking gets exciting.
Similar to the artist Sylvan Esso, the track builds on loops, syncopated drums and vocals, letting your ear wander across the parts. ‘Meateater’ stirred the crowd with a track coated in a syrupy bass and a saxophone arrangement that wouldn’t be amiss in a dank basement club where your eyes sting from the sweat and billowing cigarette smoke.
The potential and ambitions of The Dots, their stellar debut album, showcases how Alaskalaska are finding their sound by experimenting and sampling from multiple genres within each track. Whether they continue to expand out, collecting more influences and using them like they have on The Dots, or if they begin to pair down and solidify it, the most exciting thing about a band like this comes down to what their sound will become.
See the video for ‘Bees’ here: